Friday, January 12, 2007

Broken Laws Of War

By Both Hizbullah And Israel
Claims Human Rights Watch

MFL: I do not agree with several contents of the Human Rights Watch report, but it is worth to discuss it. This article by Iman Azzi is taken from the Lebanese Daily Star

BEIRUT: Israel and Hizbullah violated the laws of war this summer, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in its annual report Thursday, blaming both sides for indiscriminately targeting civilians during the 34-day war. Other Middle Eastern states did not fare better, as the human rights watchdog pointed at oppressive regimes for stifling human rights across the region.

The Israeli Army "repeatedly violated the laws of war by failing to distinguish between combatants and civilians," the report said. A total of 1,189 Lebanese, mostly civilians, were killed during the fighting, according to the Lebanese government.

Israel justified striking civilian areas by saying that Hizbullah hid in them, but HRW reported that the "attacks responsible for a majority of the civilian deaths took place at times when there was no evidence that Hizbullah fighters or weapons were even in the vicinity."

HRW also condemned the use of cluster munitions during the summer war. Israel fired an estimated four million sub-munitions into Lebanon, leaving behind as many as one million hazardous duds, which have killed or wounded over 120 people since the end of the war.

The United Nations has said that Israel fired 90 percent of the cluster bombs during the last 72 hours of fighting when a cease-fire was imminent.

Oxfam estimates that up to 85 percent of Lebanon's farmers lost some of all of their harvest as a result of the war.

Hizbullah also fired Chinese-made cluster rockets. HRW reported that Hizbullah packed "more than 4,000 anti-personnel steel spheres ('ball bearings') that shoot out upon impact, causing many of the civilian deaths and injuries." A total of 39 Israeli civilians and 100 Israeli soldiers were killed by Hizbullah rockets.

"While Hizbullah appeared to target some of its rockets at military objectives, in some cases hitting them, many of its rockets hit civilian areas, far from any apparent military target. Such attacks - at best indiscriminate attacks on civilian areas and, at worst, deliberate attacks against civilians - violated the laws of war," the report said.

The annual report highlighted other human rights concerns in Lebanon, pointing to the continued efforts to form an international tribunal to try the assassins of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, and the lack of progress toward uncovering the fate of over 17,000 Lebanese, Palestinians and other nationals still missing since the 15-year Civil War.

Across the Middle East, monarchs and authoritarian leaders received poor marks on the progress of human rights.

"Overall human rights conditions remain poor in Saudi Arabia ... The government undertook no major human rights reforms in 2006, and there were signs of backsliding on issues of human rights defenders, freedom of association, and freedom of expression," the report said. The respect of both Syria and Iran for basic human rights "deteriorated," it said.

Egypt "displayed a heavy hand against political dissent in 2006," it said, adding that the government renewed the Emergency Law in April 2006, despite pledges by President Hosni Mubarak to allow the controversial legislation to expire.

The HRW announced unsurprisingly that in Iraq, "the human rights situation worsened significantly in 2006." The country saw an increase in sectarian attacks and an independent group estimated that over 650,000 Iraqis have been killed since 2003, it added.

Iraqi refugees faced trouble in neighboring countries - an average of 2,000 flee every day. Syria and Jordan have taken in the majority, but after an Iraqi gunman killed 57 Jordanians in November 2005, sympathy for the half million Iraqis seeking shelter in the kingdom has waned, the report said.

In Libya, human rights conditions "improved somewhat in 2006 as the country continued its slow international reintegration, but serious violations remain," it said, adding that the Benghazi AIDS cases plagued the government's hopes of improving relations with Europe.

Lack of freedom of expression, assembly and the press featured prominently as concerns for the region. Other issues were gender inequality and the torture of prisoners.

The release of the HRW report coincided with the five-year anniversary of the creation of the Guantanomy Bay prison by the United States.

In September, President George W. Bush defended torture - referring to it euphemistically as "an alternative set of [interrogation] procedures" - and secret CIA prisons.

In October, the US Congress, acting at the behest of the Bush administration, denied Guantanamo detainees the right to challenge their detention in court. Human Rights Watch called on the US to close the prison, adding that it is long past time to either bring detainees to trial or set them free.

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